IMAM IN DENMARK WHO SPREAD THE MUHAMMAD CARTOON
CONTROVERSY WORLDWIDE SAYS HE'S SORRY ABOUT THE
DEATHS IT CAUSED, BUT SAYS "THIS IS LIFE" -- "60 MINUTES"
Former Danish Foreign Minister Condemns the Decision to Publish the Cartoons
The man who spread the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad first published in a Danish newspaper from Denmark to the rest of the world is sorry about the deaths his actions caused. Imam Ahmed Abu-Laban tells Bob Simon the deaths are "unexpected tragedies and we have to live with them." Abu-Laban's interview is part of a 60 MINUTES report from Denmark that examines the cartoons' origins and the subsequent furor they caused that will be broadcast Sunday, Feb. 19 (7:00-8:00 PM, PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
"I feel sorry [for the deaths]. Religion -- for Muslims, Christians and Jews -- is to provide the human beings�the best opportunity to practice life, to live, not to die," Abu-Laban tells Simon. "But we make cars and we make accidents. We build skyscrapers, but they collapse in an earthquake. This is life," says the imam. Even so, he was happy about the success of his mission. "Yes. The whole world is engaged. I'm so positive," he exclaims.
Abu-Laban included some pictures that were never published along with the materials whose dissemination is still fomenting violence in the Muslim world. The ones not published in the Danish newspaper, Jllyands-Posten, were even more offensive than the one it published of Muhammad the Prophet with a bomb in his turban. Abu-Laben claims his material clearly made the distinction between published and not published, but he could not show that distinction to Simon in his own copy of the dossier. Was his intent to stir up passions? "We didn't give it to the media. Don't forget this point," says Abu-Laban. To which Simon replies, "I am the media and I have it."
Some Danes think Jyllands-Posten was out to stir up passions as well. The country's former foreign minister and an ex-newspaper editor, thinks so. "Yes. [Jyllands-Posten was deliberately provocative]. I reacted very strongly because�you don't treat a minority that way," says Uffe Elleman. "You don't stamp on other peoples' religious feelings," he tells Simon.
The editor of Jyllands-Posten's rival newspaper, Politiken defends the paper's right to publish the cartoons. "Of course [Jyllands-Posten published the cartoons] to get a reaction from the local Muslim religious minority and they said so very explicitly," says Toger Seidenfaden. "The way I have put it, and we've been saying in our editorials for some time, is that we are defending [Jyllands-Posten's] right to be stupid."
Representatives of Jyllands-Posten, which rejected a cartoon of Christ's Resurrection before the Muhammad cartoon appeared, have stopped giving interviews since the violence erupted last week. In previous interviews, they have claimed the purpose of running the cartoons was to state that there is no higher value in a democracy than freedom of speech.